On Saturday, a jury in Florida acquitted former major league baseball player, Jim Leyritz, of DUI manslaughter in connection with a 2007 crash that took the life of a mother of two. While Leyritz escaped the major penalty of up to 15 years in prison by the jury’s verdict, he does face a maximum of 6 months in jail because he was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of a DUI. While many critics, skeptics and fans of the world of sports will argue that this is just the latest case in athletes getting off too easy, it was ultimately the law and Leyritz’s peers that found his innocence.
The jury could not find Leyritz guilty because of inconclusive testimony on whether Leyritz actually ran the red light in the accident that ended up killing 30-year-old Fredia Ann Veitch. Additionally, defense experts testified on the stand that Leyritz may have been below Florida’s BAC limit of .08 when the accident happened, even though it was .14 a few hours later. According to the experts, Leyritz became intoxicated after celebrating his birthday at local bars in town, and according to two witnesses, Veitch had the green light just before Leyritz hit her car. While this would seem to be the nail in the coffin against Leyritz, the witnesses on cross-examination were extremely less conclusive about what they saw in regards to whether Leyritz’s light was red or yellow.
What the defense expert witnesses argued next is the art of the law and arguments. While it may annoy some critics who think that Leyritz got off too easy, it ultimately should not matter what type of job Leyritz formerly had. What should be credited for Leyritz’s acquittal is the talent and expertise of his counsel’s case. Defense experts argued that Veitch’s lights may have been off and that Leyritz was possibly not speeding before the accident. Also, the defense raised doubt into the reliability of Leyritz’s blood alcohol tests, in which they suggested that the concussion Leyritz had as a result of the accident may have caused his body to absorb alcohol slower than normal. Nevertheless, the prosecution asserted that Leyritz’s intoxication led to his inability to react to the road, and inherently led to Veitch’s death.
While Leyritz will most likely be remembered for hitting a memorable World Series home run for the New York Yankees in 1996, this incident could reasonably cloud the public’s perception of him and athletes alike. However, Leyritz’s career should not be synonymous with his acquittal. Leyritz was ultimately acquitted because of a reasonable doubt that existed in the case against him, not because he was a former star athlete.